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Free Radicals' helter-skelter hybrid is a vast extension of drummer/producer Nick Cooper's previous work in the ska/funk/rock outfit Sprawl and the free-form jazz collective Necessary Tension. The Radicals' amorphous ideal was realized in the late '90s at No Tsu Oh, a 24-hour pawnshop/cafe in downtown Houston where the group would set up well after midnight and play until dawn. Everyone from underground rappers to punk rock kids to high-profile jazzers would show up at these impromptu shows to watch and to perform; the group even named a song after the place. The Free Radicals thrive on a politically charged, socially conscious multiculturalism, and appropriately, their sound encompasses a global expanse of styles -- funk, jazz, ska, hip-hop, reggae, Nigerian, and Indian music. The core live ensemble features Cooper (drums), Tom Sutherland (organ), Kent Bryant (bass), and a handful of semi-regulars, including ex-Sprawl members Dave Dove and Matt Kelly, and well-traveled jazz vibraphonist Harry Sheppard. But it's not uncommon for upwards of 30 guest musicians to sit in with the group in the studio. In 1997, the Free Radicals released their debut, The Rising Tide Sinks All, a sprawling, 29-track affair equal parts loose improv and tight songwriting. The collective dabbles more heavily in Latin stylings on the 31-track follow-up, 2000's Our Lady of Eternal Sunny Delights. ~ Hobart Rowland